Today I want to focus on some water projects we have been involved with in the jungle. While my recent trip there was not primarily dedicated to water, we carved out part of our time to evaluate the water-related needs for a couple of villages we have been working with for over 10 years.
Completed Project in San Manzanila
Before I tell you about those, let me say that our project that was completed in the Fall of 2016 is working well. This is the one that Lance Green was involved in when he went down in September. Funding came from the village itself and from friends of Grace Baptist Church of Oak Grove, Missouri.
The project unfolded naturally after playing soccer with the village in March of last year. After practically the whole village responded to the gospel message at the soccer game, we spent one day eating with them and seeing the water system they had created. It was a crank-turned operation that certainly worked. But they were trying to make it better. Since we had some funds dedicated for this kind of project already in our coffers, we were able to respond quickly. We added a generator and a tank and some know-how from several people. The community did all the tubing, and the celebration was sweet!
New Projects Are in the Works...
After the success of the project in San Manzanila, more money came in for water projects through Ray Gurney and Cross Creek Baptist Mission in Grain Valley, Missouri. Along with that was a donation from Orange Crest Community Church in Riverside, California, for parasite medication for the village of Sepoc. Since all of that is related to water issues, we took the time on this trip to see how we could help two other villages obtain clean water for both bathing and drinking.
Water-Fetching Gymnastics for our Friends in Sepoc...
I must admit that the folks in Sepoc are some of my favorite people in the world. On almost every trip I take in the jungle, I spend at least one night at pastor Jose´s hut. He and I have a bond that is beyond words, and last March they threw me a 54th birthday party I will never forget.
During the rainy season, Sepoc´s primary water hole is about a quarter mile from the center of the village. But during drier seasons (like it was on this trip) the closer source dries up and the next closest spring is about a mile away going up and over a rocky hill. It´s a pretty good workout for any able-bodied person, but for anyone not as nimble on their feet it would be tough. When I was there this time, I had already hiked over 3 hours to various villages, then when it was dark, I went with Jose by flashlight to the spring to take a spit bath. I must say that even an exercise nut like me would get tired of this daily ritual.
Thank God for Clean Water!
While both spring water sources for Sepoc are good and clean, when you have people stepping in and out of the water nearby, contamination happens. And hence the parasite issue. So, the plan is to pipe the water from the second spring by gravity into a big holding tank. From there the water will be pumped up to another tank on the mountainside where water can flow by gravity in pipes to the village. In a deal we worked out with the regional mayor of the department, they promised to provide the PVC tubing to get the water down into the village.
Women Trying to Get to the Well
The other water project we are working on is with the village of Ochul Choch. This is a remote village that is an hour and a half hike up and over a mountain from Sepoc. It has a great source of mountain spring water, but in drier seasons, the only way to get to this water is down a notched log that goes down 30 feet to a cave where the spring comes out. In visiting the spring, two of the women told us that they had slipped and fallen down this past year. One of those ladies was the wife of Lorenzo, the pastor of the little church there. He told me that his wife fell so hard that she struggled to get out and was unable to work for many days. Another lady looked like she must have been at least 60 years old, and I winced thinking about her falling. I wondered what women back home would do if every time someone in the household needed water, she had to climb up and down the height of a typical suburban two story home to fetch it.
While it sounds challenging, this project is a lot easier than the Sepoc one, because the water just has to be pumped up out of the hole into one large tank. Cesar plans to come back to them in early March to install everything. We already bought the main holding tank and by now the men of Ochul Choch have probably already built the platform for it.
While we were in Ochul Choch, the ladies knocked themselves out preparing their special spicy turkey soup. After eating together, we gathered in the church hut to talk. Since we had been talking about water, Cesar had me share the Jesus story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This story speaks volumes to me on so many issues. But I think that the ladies in Ochul Choch really felt a strong identification with the woman in the story. The reality of their lives so closely matches the lifestyles of the Bible characters. And when Jesus talks about living water, the whole metaphor just rings so powerfully to the people in this culture.
I added my own story of the first time I met a Kekchi woman at a well nearly 13 years ago. I won´t try to redo that here, but those ladies in Ochul Choch were howling with laughter as I shared my foibles in communicating back then with no cultural sensitivity at all!
Future Projects...Future Funding
Since the projects we have just mentioned have already been funded, we are not asking for anything extra for them. However, in reflecting on what has happened in these water projects, and the impact they can have in opening people up to talking about the living water of Jesus, we want to keep being responsive to future water projects as they come up. It has only been because of folks with a heart for this kind of ministry that we have been able to respond as quickly as we have on these stories I have mentioned.
If you have interest in helping us continue to respond, keep those cards and letters coming! We will funnel those funds to the projects that come up as we continue to work with our friends in the jungle regions.